Show Notes: Episode 10 – SHRM Credit: Working Remotely
August 28, 2017
Transcript: Episode 11 – Healthy Office Communications
September 11, 2017

Click here for this episode’s show notes.

This transcript was created using an automated transcription service and may contain errors.

JoDee
Welcome to JoyPowered Workplace Podcast, where we talk about putting the humanity back into HR. Today, we’ll be talking about working remotely, and this growing trend, but first off, let’s tell you a little bit about our backgrounds and who we are. I’m JoDee Curtis, owner of Purple Ink, an HR consulting firm in Indianapolis, Indiana. Joining me is my co host and good friend, Susan White, who is a free range HR consultant and former senior VP of HR at JPMorgan Chase. Susan, why don’t you tell our listeners a little bit about your background and what you do as an HR consultant.

Susan
Sure, JoDee, I’d be glad to. I spend my time really in three different areas. I consult with businesses of all sizes and shapes, I teach for the Society of Human Resource Management all over the country, and I do career coaching and executive coaching. JoDee, I know you’ve got a full plate, what is it that you do?

JoDee
So, Purple Ink is an HR consulting firm, we have nine consultants, and we do recruiting, leadership development training, and HR consulting or outsourcing so that our clients range from very small clients that don’t have HR, and we filled that void for them, to large clients who have up to 18 people on their HR teams. And we work as a project arm for them, or as a fill in when they have an empty space in HR that we can help them with. So everything HR, almost. So let’s start again and talk about working remotely. What are your thoughts on this topic, Susan?

Susan
You know, you go out and you look at the statistics, and we only have about 23% of the US population who says they work remotely. I find that really hard to believe, because other studies say, how many people want to work from home, at least part time. I think the most recent global workplace analytics I’ve seen on that is about 80% of people want at least work at some point during the week from home. I’m so surprised that there’s not more companies doing it.

JoDee
You know, interesting. I’ve been working at home for almost seven years now, so I feel like everyone should be able to work remotely, or work from home because it’s been such a joy and pleasure for me to be able to do that. But interestingly, Susan, I just had a conversation yesterday with a client who called me and said, I don’t know how to handle these people who want to work from home. He was very specifically talking about employees who maybe had a sick child, or how to repair man coming to their home for the day, and they needed to stay home, and they wanted to work while they were there. So, he was even talking about very specific examples of that and he was very concerned, and not willing to be very accommodating to those. His thought was: those people need to take vacation or PTO time to accommodate for those situations and I laughed with him and I said, I’m maybe not the best person to talk to about this because I’ve worked from home for seven years, and I’m a big fan of it. But I do think it’s interesting. I think there’s more people like him then there are me that are not open to that option.

Susan
What I don’t get about that is… doesn’t his employees that work inside the office, sometimes they have to go get a cup of coffee? Don’t they sometimes pick up the phone, they they’re actually quarterbacking somebody working on something in their house? Wouldn’t you feel better having some respect for that employee, letting them stay home the days they need to, and while they’re still able to do some producing. You know, if someone’s at their house doing some repairs, it doesn’t usually take them watching that person, you know, for eight hours, maybe they let the person in the door, but they can sit down, get on their laptop and keep producing for them. I just don’t get that thinking.

JoDee
I don’t either. And that’s exactly the conversation I had with him about that maybe he would actually get more production out of people if they were able to have that kind of flexibility. And if he was asking them to take a vacation day that they absolutely weren’t going to work right.

Susan
It’s zero productivity, right?

JoDee
Right, but that he might be able to get ahead on projects or get more accomplished if he gave them that flexibility. So, I think maybe I convinced him a little bit to adjust a little bit of those options and allow people, although again, in his case, it was only for very specific opportunities to do that.

Susan
You know, maybe we should, for our listeners, talk a little bit about the pros and the cons, maybe from the employer standpoint, and then maybe from the employee standpoint.

JoDee
Yeah, yeah.

Susan
Let’s think about what are some of the real reasons that companies out there have decided that they are going to be a more flexible workplace and allow employees to work from home?

JoDee
Interestingly, I literally just read on the way here that a company in Fishers, Indiana was closing their operations in Fishers but keeping the 240 employees who worked there, so that they could work from home because of the cost savings of not having to rent the space, so I think that’s a big one right there. Just the opportunity for companies to save space.

Susan
Oh, yeah, the cost of real estate. Absolutely. I also think about, you know, the utilities, right expenses. I think about the WiFi, you know, people working from home, no doubt have their own WiFi or internet service. What other types of things could they save on, maybe not having to buy the coffee or the water cooler or other types of things?

JoDee
Well, I do think too that now, it took me some time to when I started my business seven years ago, I wasn’t immediately productive, and it took me some time to get up to speed. But, in the end, I think I’m way more productive at home by not having those water cooler conversations, the constant interruptions. Sure we still interrupt each other with texts and phone calls and emails and that type of thing, but it’s generally not as long conversation as it is with people face to face. So I believe companies can actually be more productive and get more accomplished when people are working from home.

Susan
You know, there was a survey done in 2008 by the Computing Technology Industry Association, and they had surveyed lots and lots of businesses, and they came back with a statistic of 67% saying that they had a greater productivity out of their staff that worked either full time or part time, who worked remotely.

JoDee
Yeah. I totally believe that. I think early in my career, although I was not working remotely, I had a very unique, flexible schedule, that I was one of the very few people in my office at the time who was able to do that, and because I was so appreciative of that opportunity to work differently than others, I guarantee you it was the most productive time ever in my career. Because I wanted to prove to my co workers and to my bosses that I could make it work and still be productive.

Susan
I think they got more out of you than that if they’ve given you an eight to five.

JoDee
Absolutely, no question about it. I was also coming in really early and had a lot of interrupted time in the mornings, so that also added to my productivity. So I think giving people those options to work when it’s… that doesn’t mean everyone has to be able to work on their own time schedule, right?

Susan
Sure, we gotta focus on the customer, right?

JoDee
Right. We have to be available to customers, to clients, to our peers, to people who might need information from us, but I think if we can allow people, some flexibility in their work hours, they can be more productive and happier at the same time.

Susan
I really do agree. But you know what, I do believe that not every person is going to be successful at working from home or working remotely. I think it does take some different kind of competencies than just somebody who just likes to come in and punch the clock, right? I think you have to be pretty self disciplined, right? And you’ve got to be a self starter. So, if you need somebody to poke you to get you off the couch you to get going, you may not be the right one.

JoDee
Exactly. And again, I think as in my example, it takes time to develop that. I mean, I had to kind of figure out when were the best times for me to make client appointments out of the office and I found myself early on, I would make morning appointments with clients and then in the afternoon, I’d want to come back and say sit on the couch and do some work. And several times I found myself taking a snooze nap. And I figured out for me, A.) that sitting on the couch was not a good option for me, especially in the afternoons. And that I was actually better working from home in the mornings and having client appointments in the afternoon. So, it takes figuring out what works for people. I know other people who have I’ve just recently heard of this and then all of a sudden I’ve met several people who did this where people have themed days, and they try and do certain things on certain days of the week.

Susan
So when you say themes like today’s a day when I pay my invoices, today I’m going to do outreach, that type of thing?

JoDee
Right, today’s a day I’ll have client appointments, or for some people who maybe work partly in an office and partly from home that they figure out which types of projects they work on better at home where they might have an uninterrupted time. or other projects. So yes, maybe that invoice time, or paying bills is something they do in the office or not in the office, or setting up client appointments is something they try and schedule as many as they can on Mondays and Tuesdays or whatever that might look for them. that can create some discipline for people too.

Susan
Oh yeah, I like those ideas. You know, one concern that I’ve heard from managers is that they don’t really want to have employees working from home because they feel like they lose control of the data. And for fear that you know, a child will walk into the office space at home, or a spouse, or maybe a neighbor will come over to borrow some sugar, and you know, how secure is your company information if it’s spread out around somebody’s kitchen table?

JoDee
Yeah.

Susan
You had that question come up, or do you have any ideas?

JoDee
You know, I’ve had that question come up. But as you know, Susan, you’re much more risk averse than I am.

Susan
We discovered that a long time ago.

JoDee
Right.

Susan
I dot my i’s and cross my T’s.

JoDee
Yeah, so I’m very much on the technology side of at Purple Ink, for example, we don’t have paper files. So not that we might not occasionally have some papers on the desk or in a folder, or a current project that we’re working on. But none of us maintain file cabinets at home, or any volume of things that they keep. So we keep everything on our laptops, and they’re all backed up to our Dropbox. So that doesn’t avoid that completely, but I think some of those practices can help it too. But again, you’re more risk averse than than I, what do you think about that?

Susan
You know, I agree with you. And I think that the more paperless that we can become, the absolute better. But I think that’s important. You have sort of a set of rules. If you have an employee that’s working from home, you need to make sure that they understand data confidentiality rules and whatnot. I do believe that they need to have a laptop that is truly devoted to work. I don’t think it should be the family laptop, or the family computer where people are gonna go on and off. And I think you just need to set up a kind of a list of mutually agreeable norms, so that I would feel better, knowing that they’re regarding the company information as much as I’d want them to.

JoDee
Right, right. Certainly things like only working via the company server and not storing data on hard drives, I’ve been through that several times and former organizations where people had information on laptops that were stolen or dropped or lost or had to be recreated or was stolen by an outside party too.

Susan
Yeah, you can’t be, you can’t be too… even there, JoDee, we have to look at the risks, right? Well, you know, another topic that I, since I started doing consulting that within the last three years, I have found that I really have to put extra prioritization on staying in communication with people that I can, you know, get lost in just the work I have in front of me, and I can look up and it’s six or seven hours later, and I think “I’ve not spoken to another human being,” I’m getting ready to do a presentation or whatnot. So I know for me, and I think that’s a good best practice out there for others who are telecommuting full time is to make sure that you actually block time that you’re going to be doing outreach and talking to either colleagues or collaborators or your clients to make sure that you are, you know, staying in touch with people.

JoDee
Right. We have recently in the past several months set up at Purple Ink where we’re having more regular meetings between our team members, and one of our consultants who lives in Michigan… So even though all of us work from home, we still semi-frequently, we might not all see each other, but we see one person here, one person there. But Catherine, the consultant in Michigan, recently mentioned that it has made such a big difference to her for us to have more frequent meetings. And not only do we have more frequent meetings, but we’re having video meetings where we’re actually seeing each other’s faces. And although I have really enjoyed that, too, that has made just truly a significant impact to her and the way she works and feels like her interaction with others has gone up dramatically, even though technically it hasn’t, but just by being able to see each other on the webcams. So that can be a good option too.

Susan
I think it would probably actually get me out of my pajamas into nicer clothes. On those days that I’m not visiting with clients, maybe I would dress a little better too.

JoDee
Yeah, I actually it’s funny. I had a client video meeting this morning. And I thought, “Oh, I better, you know, shape up a little bit here to have my meeting.” So, I’ve told many, many people over the years too Susan, when I started Purple Ink that my greatest fear in having my business, it was not about clients, it was not about business development, it was not about cash flow… I’m not sure it was the right thing to worry about and that I shouldn’t have been more focused on those topics, but my number one concern was my fear of working from home, even though I loved having that ability to do it, to think that I might be home five days a week all by myself. So, when you talked about getting ingrained and looking up and thinking, I haven’t talked to people. I’m an extrovert. And so it was very important for me to be surrounded by people. And I think something I did early on, if I didn’t have anyone to meet with or thought I was going to have a whole day of work at home, I even would just call a friend and schedule a lunch so that I would get myself out of my home and talking with other people back when I didn’t have any other internal people to talk to. So I think it’s important to figure those things out for yourself about your personal needs, and what you need to do to make it work for you.

Susan
Oh, I think that’s very smart. You know, I just was reading an article in Forbes in November and they were talking about working remotely. They said that you’re 87% more likely to love your job if you telecommute. Isn’t that huge?

JoDee
That is huge.

Susan
If I could find that, like the secret recipe, the secret sauce to, you know, help my employees be engaged. I think how you can you not look at remote work, right?

JoDee
Right, right. I think so too. I do… one thing I hear, though, what do you think about some people say, “but there are so many jobs where you can’t offer that to people.” Do you think that’s true? Or do you think people just aren’t thinking very creatively about how to make that happen?

Susan
You know, I think they’re not thinking broadly enough. I think it’s really easy to say no, but I think that if you sit down and really do a job analysis and figure out what are the actual responsibilities, somebody has to physically be in a certain location to do, and then say, okay, maybe that’s 40% of some jobs, 60%. Maybe there’s a few. Maybe if you’re a security guard, you need to be there, guarding whatever it is they’re paying you to guard. But I think it’s rare. I mean, can you think of any jobs where absolutely… you know, people used to say to me, “Well, if you’re managing people, you’ve got to be there to watch the people,” I don’t buy that anymore. Now maybe if it’s a call center, and everyone is attached to technology that has to physically be there, all right. But usually even jobs that are customer service oriented, so many of them now are being done in remote locations, or people’s homes. So as long as you have the right platform of technology, and you can see what your staff is doing, perhaps you can listen in to those calls for training purposes only. Or if you can see the call volume coming in, so on and so forth. I’m not convinced that the answer of “No, this job has to be done here” is really a fair answer.

JoDee
Right. I think the one job that always comes to mind for me first is thinking that well, your receptionist, you couldn’t have your receptionist work from home. But I’ve decided even I think that isn’t valid either. I know in offices I’ve worked at the receptionist couldn’t physically see us anyway, she was looking at a computer screen or a monitor that showed whether people were in or out of the office or available or not available. Of course, you would have the issue of greeting people who might physically come into your space. Now, of course, I go into many, many offices where you walk in the door, and there’s a phone list and a phone and you call the person you need, and I know it doesn’t seem quite as customer friendly, but in offices where maybe the volume of traffic coming in off the street is not that heavy, it just doesn’t seem to make sense. Even again, back to a cost perspective of thinking about paying someone to sit there every day. So as long as someone can be available to answer the phone from wherever they are.

Susan
Yeah, I was going to say, I can’t remember the last time I saw receptionist, but I know a few are still out there and I do love to be greeted, even though I know that it’s more rare, right?

JoDee
And just as a reminder to our listeners, some of the advantages were increased productivity, greater employee satisfaction, 24-7 agility, not that we’re suggesting that you need to be available 24-7, but that people found they were more open to being more available in return for the opportunity to be more flexible.

Susan
You’re right. We also talked about things that the employer would be interested in like saving on real estate, not having to, you know, provide technology inside of some type of a office building, coffees, water, parking, all those expenses that a business could actually take off their books if they had a portion of their population working from home.

JoDee
Right. I find it interesting that many employers I think are still a bit nervous about incorporating this concept of letting people work from home because, they’re afraid they’ll lose control or that employees will be less productive. But most people we’ve heard from have said they’re actually more productive working from home, that they have less distractions of other employees in the office, of taking longer lunches… you think that the laundry or the dog might be distracting to you, but they seem to be much less distracting than things going on in the office.

Susan
You know, if you’re going to make that business case to your employer about “I want an opportunity to work from home, if not full time, part time,” then you really want to think about how do you make it easy on them to say yes, and I think one of those ways is to make sure that you’ve explored and investigated the type of technology that’s out there.

We’ve invited someone very knowledgeable on this topic to join us today. Bob Knauf, a senior product manager at Polycom. Bob is joining us from his home office in Southwest Florida. Hello, Bob.

JoDee
Hi Bob!

Bob
Hello, Susan and JoDee!

Susan
So Bob, tell us about Polycom. You know how many employees do you have? How many work from home and you know you yourself? What do you think works and

Bob
Sure, Polycom has been around for about 26 years. Most people know is from that iconic starfish speakerphone that you see in so many different conference rooms. You see it all over different TV shows and movies and so forth. And that’s how we got our start with that amazingly great audio. We progressed over time to data conferencing, and then we moved into video conferencing. And we’ve been making video conferencing equipment to help people communicate better and at a great distance for the past 12 to 13 years. We have all cool technology built into let people work naturally from the corporate environment, schools, and of course working from home.

Susan
Give us some specifics. What kind of technology, you know, audio and visual. What are some of the capabilities that are out there today that our listeners would be interested in?

Bob
Well, I think a lot of folks would be interested in the audio technology for starters, I mean, how many times have you been in a call where there’s noise happening in the background. It could be anything from babies crying to the dogs barking. And that noise can bleed through into the conference. A lot of people also in today’s world like to… they like to work from coffee shops and other open workspace environments. And again, all that noise, historically, would just bleed right into the call, stopping productivity. And really, someone’s going have to say, hey, Bob, can you please mute your end because it’s driving the rest of us nuts. And we’re Polycom technology we’ve put in things like technology called noise block, and acoustic fence technology. It actually will listen to your environment using different microphones on the desktops. A desktop phone will utilize microphones that you may not be using, that will listen to the environment and then block out all that background noise. So you don’t hear all that extraneous noise coming through into the conference.

JoDee
And Bob, when I hear you say the word video conferencing equipment, it makes me think ‘expensive.’ Is this kind of equipment really feasible for individuals, whether it’s just this audio blocker or video conferencing technology?

Bob
That’s what’s so cool about today’s world just in general, there’s so much great video technology, everything from FaceTime running on your iOS device or Skype to if you start looking at the Polycom solutions. Polycom has applications that will run on your iPad, your iPhone, to your PC. And of course, we graduate very quickly up to the conference room and beyond. But the great thing about Polycom solutions is that we have an audio technology built into all of our different solutions. So even from the lowest price solutions, like desktop software, will be able to block out that noise and give users a really great experience during a video call back to their home base.

JoDee
Nice. So is this something that just an individual can purchase? Or does the company need to purchase it for everyone to have access to?

Bob
Certainly we are involved with individuals that are looking for the best experience possible. But our solutions really shine, you know, in an organization where they might have many people deployed remotely, for example. That way, if you’ve got 100 employees or 100, people, volunteers, whoever it might be within your organization, you want them all to be able to connect easily and with the highest quality possible, that’s where our solutions really will work beautifully together because we have infrastructure equipment that will allow IT administrators to really manage the entire network so people don’t… they’re not going, what I would say going rogue and taking an enormous amount of bandwidth for everyone on their calls. It’s like how an organization today may not allow employees to go to certain websites with Netflix and start streaming video and just thinking of gobs of bandwidth during the middle of the workday, we can do that as well with our solutions, right? We can allow the administrators of a network in the entire organiation to manage, not only employees in the office, but also from their home.

Susan
That’s great. You know, it’s interesting. We know that many, many people out there want to work from home. You know, statistics are very about how many people in the US are actually doing it. But we know there’s more than who want to do you have advice for individuals who want to work from home? What could they include in their business case, to their management to maybe get it done, maybe from a technology standpoint?

Bob
Absolutely just as an example, there’s a lot of companies out there that have really great work from home policies, and you can search out those companies. There’s great websites out there like remote.co and I think there’s a few other ones. You can actually search out companies that are specifically hiring work from home jobs. But there’s larger organizations, take Polycom for example, we have over 3000 employees and over 50% of our employees work from home. And that is a really large numbers, if you think about that ratio, 50% of our employees work from home, and we are able to be successful, one, because companies have to trust in their employess. But if you’ve been at an organization, and you want to have a more flexible work environment, maybe you don’t want to work five days from home, maybe you just want to work a few days from home. And honestly, this is the way to start. This is the way I know a lot of people at Polycom have done it in the past to have a better work life balance. They’ll start working from home one day a week and then gradually working two days a week showing and proving to their boss into the upper management that, you know what, this does work! So my advice is start small. You know, if you’re working in Alaska, for example, don’t go to your boss one day and say, Hey, I’m interested in moving to Southwest Florida and working full time out of there, maybe start working from home a couple of days a week, couple of days a month showing that you can still be as productive from home as if you were just sitting right in the office. Everyone that is in the right mind wants people, their employees to have a better work life balance. And I have seen huge success at Polycom and other organizations that we work with that they have tremendous work from home policies, and it’s just keep growing and growing and growing and growing.

Susan
That makes sense.

JoDee
Bob, for some companies, it’s important for them to know that their employees are logged on or that they’re available for phone calls, or it’s actually tracking their usage on the phone or on the screen, is that part of what you offer as well?

Bob
Well, Polycom directly, we have, again, the infrastructure equipment if they’re heavily involved with audio and video technology, they’ll have what we call virtual meeting rooms, for example. So all of my meetings that I attend are done through these virtual meeting rooms, it’s basically a cloud service. And my boss wants to know, how many meetings did Bob have? Did he call himself this past month, he could actually pull down those statistics. However, we don’t do that. But if if it was a newer organization that was looking to build the trust, see how this is working, they do have tools at their fingertips. And again, it doesn’t have to necessarily be 100% about Polycom here, that it’s just if you’re fully invested in our audio video solutions, but you wanted to just get started out you can do something like say Microsoft Office 365 that will give administrators the ability to dish out video and audio numbers, to home office users, and they can track the usage on what people are doing. Of course, from an IT perspective, you have like things like virtual private networks, or VPNs, where IT could actually look and say, oh, Bob was on the VPN for 32 hours this past week. That means he was probably doing work for the organization, little do they know I was probably on Yahoo or CNN, but we’ll let them believe that I was actually doing doing the work. So there’s definitely software out there to let you do that, there’s also virtual time clocks. So you could, if an organization was looking to have people punch in basically, you can also do that virtually. And you could do that through your telephone. You could also do that learn from logging on to a terminal or your pc or your iPad. And an organization can actually see that “Oh, you worked eight and a half hours a day, you work seven hours a day you logged in an 8am you logged out at 4pm, whatever it might be. So there’s a ton of resources and tools out there that, by the way, will not break the bank. All these tools I’m talking about are available as a cloud services. So an organization that’s looking to do work from home, they don’t have to put up a bunch of capital in order to get started and let their employees work from home.

Susan
That’s great. So Polycom, you know, it sounds like really hasn’t figured out not only for their employee population, but really to support clients and their needs to help promote working from home. Do you consult with businesses to really help them figure out the whole picture even with like time monitoring and things like that, to help them access some of these other tools that are available?

Bob
Absolutely. So, in our typical engagment with a new customer. We have to go in and learn all about their business. So our system engineers and our account managers will go in and spend time with an organization, they’ll spend time with the employees to see how people work. Because the one thing that we have learned in our 26 year history is that you cannot change how people work too dramatically if you want them to use your technology. If they feel uncomfortable using your technology, anything from just placing a simple phone call to being on a video call, if it makes them feel uncomfortable, if they just don’t understand how to do it, they won’t use the technology and ultimately, the pilot program or wherever might be will be unsuccessful. So we always like to get as much information upfront for an organization, especially if they’re looking to do work from home, because there are so many different ways to connect from the home back to the home base and see what the needs are, because every organization will have different needs. And why are they wanting to let their employees work remotely?

Susan
That makes sense. Now I know Polycom is a big user of work from home, but what other large companies are you familiar with that have done it really good and aggressive way?

Bob
We’ve seen different companies like Sabre Travel, for example, corporate travel agencies, they no longer have one central office. Now you’ll see organizations, take Polycom, for example, we use a travel site called Carlson Wagonlit. They’re a large national travel chain, and they don’t actually just have one office. They have travel agents all over the United States working from home. Polycom has dedicated employees from their organization that if we call the 800 number, we’re actually just being forwarded to someone in Colorado, someone in Massachusetts, but they’re all working from home. So we’re seeing a big trend there. We’re also seeing a trend from anyone in customer service from Amazon, to there’s so many organizations out there that will let you work from home because it’s so easy. If you think about your typical job that might be customer service, they’re spending 90% of their day just sitting at a phone. Why do they have to go into an office where the organization spending money on the space, the HVAC, the water in the fridge, whatever it might be. Just let them work from home. And they’ll be equally as successful because, again, they’re logged in just as if they’re logged in sitting at the desk in that highly priced office.

JoDee
Nice. Bob, at Purple Ink, we do leadership training, and typically that is live training where we’re in their offices or wherever works for them. But we’re getting more questions, just in the past couple of weeks I’ve had questions from clients about where they have one person who works in a remote location, or two people, and we’ve been able to work through those, but I had a question last week where everyone that they wanted to have in the class was going to be working somewhere from a remote location. What suggestions if any, do you have for that to offer effective training to employees when they’re not all in the same location?

Bob
So you have a couple different paths you could go for teaching a class or even having a meeting from one to many, or one to one. First, you have to ask yourself as the organizer, do I want to have full interaction? Meaning do I want to have people be able to stop me and ask the question? Or do I feel more comfortable just presenting the material and then have people ask me questions at the end? And the third way is do I want people to be able to be interactive throughout the entire session, but I want them to be able to type the questions to me versus being you know, on a screen and being fully interactive. So the technology involved there could be a little different if you want to have full interaction, which I prefer, that way I can ask questions, stop, see everyone, and most importantly, everyone else on the call sees everyone else. So you know that Kathy from Minneapolis is on the call, oh, my friend Tom from Colorado is on the call. It really does make you feel better as a work from home employee to see your other work from home employees. So in that case, what you would do is you have a video technology like Polycom, for example, at your home office. And it could be something as simple as our iPad app that you can download, or it could be a desktop software. If it’s an office you can have one of our conference room systems, and you go to a video cloud service. And your organization’s not making the investment themselves on the infrastructure here to bridge all those participants together from an audio video perspective, there’s great providers out there, like Zoom conferencing, Blue Jeans, and there’s many many others that can offer basically video bridging service or cloud service that will let audio and video participants all join together as one.

Susan
Isn’t that great?

Bob
That’s the best way I like to do it. Now if you don’t want to do full interaction, you can of course, go to web conferencing and everyone is familiar, I believe at this point with some sort of web conference like WebEx or many others that are out there PGI, etc. They will allow a presenter to sit there and go through slides, they will be talking on their audio device, people could easily just type in questions as they see it. Most of these web conferencing services as well have some type of video portion to it. But it does give the presenter a bit more flexibility on when they want to accept the questions versus being interrupted. But again, it’s definitely not the same feeling on a webconference as it is on a true multi way video conference.

Susan
Right. Listen, thank you so much, Bob, for joining us today. We really feel like it’s been insightful and helpful to us and anything else that you want to make sure we knew before we let you go?

Bob
I’ll go back to the first question you asked about how to allow your boss to allow you to work from home. And it’s just – take your time, don’t go for everything at once, if you live in Alaska, and you want to get out of the cold, want to move to Florida. Don’t try to move to Florida in one fell swoop, you know, start working from home. Just say “hey, I’m trying to work from home on Thursdays or on Fridays,” whatever it might be for you. And then just keep building that up and show you’re equally as good outside the office as you are inside the office. My number one piece of advice for work from all people always be available during business hours. So if you happen to go to the doctor with your kids or for yourself or something like that, or another event that your family might be having at a school, make sure your cell phone is there and ready and able to take those calls or at least be able to answer email quickly, just so it shows that you’re able to be equally as productive outside the office as inside the office.

Susan
That’s great advice on being responsive, really smart. Gosh, Bob, thank you so very much. We wish you the best. And thank you so much for calling in.

Bob
Alright, thank you! Have a great day guys.

Susan
So JoDee, do we have any listener email that we want to address this week?

JoDee
We do. We have a listener from Chicago. Her name is Edith said “JoDee and Susan, I work for a global company and I’m on a team with people all over the US. My boss pulls all of us together frequently to talk through large and small issues for hours at a time. It drives me nuts. We don’t make any decisions on these calls and feel like we are being held hostage as he talks out loud. He’s a nice guy, but I want my time back to get my job done. What suggestions do you have?”

Susan
Well, Edith, first of all hurray, you got a nice boss, right? It’s all good for you. But I can understand that you feel like you’re not being able to be productive and the team isn’t being productive if you spend lots of lots of time consistently on the phone and not reaching decisions or, or making action plans, what I would do is I would schedule time with my boss and I would sit down and I’d start with positive, I’d say, you know, I love the fact that you are very collaborative, and that we as a team, you know, we really do know the issues that are that the whole team is facing, you know, large and small. But I do have a suggestion, I do think that we may want to change the format of our meetings, and really think about what are the two or three big issues that we need to face as a team and then really get some takeaway assignments. And that ought to be, in my opinion, a new format for us moving forward so that we actually get things done. What about you, JoDee? Have you ever experienced this? And any advice that you might have for Edith?

JoDee
I haven’t experienced it to a significant amount, but I do think it’s some people styles to talk through decisions out loud, or want to include lots of different people in their decisions. And so I love Susan’s idea of just talking to him about that one on one. Maybe another idea in that one on one meeting would be to suggest that he talked about certain issues with smaller groups of people. Or maybe there are some ideas that you and he can work through just the two of you, but on other topics, he might connect with one or two other people to have those discussions so that not everyone’s time is wasted talking through every issue.

Susan
I like that, I like Edith saying, you know what, let me take on some of those small issues for you. What can I do to help you and us being more productive team?

JoDee
Right. And I think he’ll appreciate that, Edith. If you’re thinking about the productivity, not just of yourself, but for the whole team as well, while still enabling him to work in his style of talking through issues.

Susan
Great well, Edith, good luck. Let us know how it goes. We’ve got Julia from Fort Wayne. And she’s got a question on working from home today’s topic. She says, “I would like to work from home, but my boss doesn’t seem very interested. Do you have any suggestions on how I can make this happen?”

JoDee
So my first suggestion, Julia would be to take it a little bit slow. Think about asking could you work from home one day a week? Could you work from home a couple of afternoons a week? How could you start out that would maybe make it work for your boss in sort of a trial run, that you could ease into it and let him gain your trust and respect. Let him figure out what works well for you to do at home and what might not.

Susan
I think that’s smart. The other thing I was thinking is maybe Julia, you put together kind of a mini business plan, and you lay out, you know, explain what your commute is today. Talk about the hours that you’re working and try to explain that there’s any projects or extra overtime or anything strategic that’s not getting done that you’d like to try to tackle for him. And ask if you can put together a kind of a pilot, where for the next month, you try doing this new schedule where you work two days or three days or something from home, and here’s what the benefit would be to him or her of your doing that and really lay it out in a business sense and say, you know, what, will you give it a try for a month and when we can revisit it at the end of the month. If we don’t get the return on investment that I think you will, then we’ll go back, you know, no harm.

JoDee
I think that’s a great idea. And I love having an end date on it, which might not be what Julia would like to hear, but will be much more comforting to her boss to think, okay, I can do this for a month and we can revisit it. I’m not committing to it for a long time.

Susan
I think that’s really smart too. And then you know the other thing Julia, if your boss never comes around, and this isn’t going to be an option for you, and it’s really, really important to you for whatever other reason in your life, you know, you might want to start thinking about is there somewhere else where I could take my talents. A website that I’ve used recently and one of my career coaching clients just has fallen in love with is called flexjobs.com, check it out. They have an amazing number of opportunities and they’re these are meaningful jobs. These aren’t, you know, stuffing envelopes from home. These are real jobs, needing real skills and people are using it to find roles that they can do from home. So give it a shot.

JoDee
I think that’s great. And one other thought I have for Julia too, is to be very honest with your boss about when things are working and when they’re not. It’s not going to be perfect right off. And there might be a few stumbles, and instead of trying to hide those or not share them with with your boss, tell your boss what went wrong and how you might do it differently the next time. Did you try to log into a conference call and you didn’t get on? Did you have some problems with your internet and now you understand how it worked? So that they don’t see it as a failure, but something you figured out and were able to come and know you have a better plan for the next time that situation comes up, because it won’t be perfect at first.

Susan
I think that’s very smart advice. So Julia, JoDee, and I want to hear from you. Let us know, if you would, how it goes, we wish you the best on it.

Zeke
Hi, my name is Zeke. I’ve been working for a large bank in New York City and has more than 200,000 employees across the US in more than 25 states, about eight years ago at the bank management requested that I relocate to Indianapolis from another state, which I did. And I’ve been happy and thriving here ever since. There are also thousands of employees like me who’ve been relocated by the bank over the years. With you know, the bank paying, you know, full relocation costs. However, due to recent changes in leadership and a strategy to consolidate a lot of non customer facing functions to only a few locations, 10s of thousands of employees have been laid off or forced to move if they wanted to keep their jobs. I’ve been told that I also had to move or lose my job. I don’t want to relocate a second time for the firm, now that my family’s been here for a long time and is thriving. So since myself and countless others are able to perform 100 percent of our job or the duties of our job, remotely via email or phone call or video conference, there is absolutely no cost to the company for people like me to work from our home. So I guess my question is what action can people like me take to be able to remain employed by the bank and remain in our current location? Thank you.

Susan
Zeke, your problem is one that I think many people either have faced or will face in their careers that they’re going to be working for a company and they’re going to love their work, and they’re going to feel good at what they’re doing. But for one reason or another, the company may decide either they don’t need what you’re doing, or they’re not going to need you doing it, where you’re doing it. In a perfect world, you’d be able to say, listen, let me demonstrate to you how I can work from home and make this work. In fact, our very first podcast was about working from home and building a business case to help convince your management team on as to why to allow you that flexibility. But I’m going to tell you that it’s not always going to work companies based on their own strategies, their needs, their goals, your best business case may not win the day. And when that happens, I think it’s important that you start thinking about who else can use my services? Where else could I add value in the community that I want to live in? JoDee, what are your thoughts?

JoDee
Yeah, Zeke, I think I don’t think I have a different answer than what Susan said. But just to reiterate, again, about making that business case or even at least trying to get them to give you a try, right? It seems like you’re in a role now you’re currently with the bank, it would seem for them to give it a try would be easier than to bring in someone else, or to start over. So anything you can do to think about it from a cost standpoint, from a relationship standpoint, from a reputation standpoint, that you could take a try. Even if you had to volunteer to maybe some certain days, certain weeks that you would travel to that location if they thought face to face interaction was really important. But to make your case be prepared with numbers and samples and anything you can think of to go to them to see how it might work most effectively for you, and certainly the bank.

Susan
Good luck to you, Zeke. Next caller:

Caller
There are a number of companies who have gone forward with offering their employed limited PTO, but I know there are a lot of studies that shows there are people who don’t actually take as much vacation as employee to work the companies that limit their employees vacation and you offer PTO that you have to earn, would love to hear your thoughts on that. And thank you, love your podcast.

JoDee
Thank you. Yes, I have certainly been talking about that topic a lot recently, read a lot about it in different magazines. I just had a specific conversation with someone just a few weeks ago who asked that same question. They have about 40 employees in their organization, they had put the unlimited PTO policy in about a year ago. So just in terms of very specific numbers, not one of their 40 employees took more than one week off in 2016. So that number had, which was two weeks or more the prior year. So they put in a policy of unlimited PTO. And basically people didn’t take off. It didn’t mean they weren’t coming to the office every day. What she said she found happening was that people would go on vacation or they would take some time off, but they ended up working more when they were gone than when they were there. And so in terms of total true recorded PTO time, it was substantially less.

Susan
I was gonna say JoDee, I was reading an article in Inc. Actually was Inc Magazine on the line and back in 2015, a gentleman named Jean Marx wrote an article about the reasons why unlimited PTO is so unfair to employees and is exactly what you found in your case. His belief is that it makes people too uncomfortable when they’re told they can have all they need, it makes them very uncomfortable to ever ask off for anytime. And so you’ll find that those companies that people take so much less.

JoDee
Yeah, it’s kind of an interesting phenomenon, right. But I think people want to know, companies sometimes fear that people would take off too much, and then the employees are fearing that they would take off too much. So no one is taking any time off. So it is not a policy I recommend. I have not personally seen any success stories with the concept. I think maybe just increasing PTO time giving people more time but still having it be a defined amount of time. I had a friend of mine who works for a company who was on this, and this has been, at least – I mean, it’s been much more popular in the past few years, but my friend did this probably it seems like it was maybe 8 or 10 years ago. And it didn’t work well for her company back then either, so I’m not sure we’ve seen progress on that particular issue or a change of heart on it, I just I don’t recommend it.

Susan
Yeah, I you know, I was looking at the 2016 SHRM Employee Benefit report, and they say that unlimited vacation is being offered by less than 2% of US companies. So you know, it’s few, now the ones that are getting a lot of attention on it our Virgin, Carmax, Twitter, Uber, LinkedIn, The Motley Fool, so the ones that are doing it are certainly making a lot of press on it but we’re not finding a lot of companies following that bandwagon. So, interesting. But I think your your points on a god I can’t disagree with, I know if someone told me I could take all the time in the world, I don’t think I would. I think I’d feel guilty for my co workers if I took off and went to Australia for a month.

JoDee
So thank you to our listeners today. If you have missed any of our podcasts, you can go to iTunes and download our complete series. Just search JoyPowered – all one word. If you have questions on any HR topic or feedback on our podcast, you can contact us via our JoyPowered Facebook account, or on Twitter @joypowered. You can also email us at joypowered@gmail.com or now we’d love for you to leave us a voicemail that we can play on the show at 317-688-1613. We love listener questions and feedback. So please tune in next time.

Jake Bouvy
Jake Bouvy
Jake is a former member of the JoyPowered podcast team.

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